7 Feb


The Leya people occupy the Mukuni village. It is a small mountain village it being located on a sandy knoll seven kilometers from the Victoria Falls. The land is infertile so the villagers have to rely on other sources of income other than agriculture.

The village was founded by the Leya tribal matriarch, Be Dyango in the thirteenth century and then known as Gundu. It was however renamed Mukuni in the seventeenth century in honour of Mukokalya Mukuni N’gombe. The village Chief rules jointly with a queen who is named after their tribal matriarch Be Dyango. With this arrangement of dual rule between male and female lineages the Leya people have almost eliminated the problem of gender imbalance. In the Leya culture, the women manage the cultural issues including land allocation whereas men take care of the day to day running of the village.

They arrived at the entrance of the village by dusk. Sandy was led into a spacious compound with thatched huts. Even in the twilight Sandy could see it was a beautiful clean place.

As if reading her thoughts Illuminada said ‘Because of its proximity to the Victoria Falls this village is fast becoming a tourist destination. So the village is kept clean and ready at all times to receive the endless visitors.’

Sandy nodded her head to this piece of information.

‘You must be exhausted’, Illuminada observed. ‘You will have to pay homage to the Queen and retire for the night.’

The queen was there to receive Sandy. She was adorned in traditional regalia with jewelry unique to the Leya culture. She was flanked by her ladies in waiting.

Sandy curtsied before her and she in turn nodded to Sandy.

‘I hear you have had quite an experience since you arrived Africa,’ she said in a sultry voice. ‘I hope it has not been an all horrible one’.

‘Not at all’, Sandy responded quickly. ‘Though it has been terrifying in its own way, I believe it is an eye-opener.’

‘You would have your eyes opened even the more’, said the queen. Tomorrow you would be exposed to more of our culture, that which makes us who we are. But for now you must be fed and have your rest.’

Sandy curtsied again. ‘I really must say I am grateful for your hospitality.’

Sandy was led out of the hut and taken to another hut within the compound. There she saw the table had already been spread.

Sandy found she did not have much of an appetite since she was extremely exhausted. She had a bowl of heavily spiced soup prepared with trout caught in the Zambezi. The soup was good for her for she felt herself drifting into sleep almost immediately. Illuminada helped her into an already prepared bed. She fell asleep as soon as she hit the bed.

            *                      *                      *

The next day was a very busy day for the Leya people. The preparation for the Lwiindi ceremony was under way. The ceremony, which was presided over by Bedyango who served as a priestess, was in place to appeal to the gods which the people believed live within the gorges, to release rain for the year.

Sandy was taken around the busy village. In front of Be Dyango’s hut was a congregation of young men each about seventeen years of age. They looked quite ferocious to Sandy dressed in their traditional loin cloths.

Sandy asked her guide what was happening. She was scared there must be some kind of war going on.

Her guide smiled at her lack of knowledge and proceeded to explain to her all about the Lwiindi ceremony.

‘These men would prove their manhood today.’

Sandy seemed puzzled, ‘Their manhood? I don’t get it.’

‘These young men are known as Basilombelombe. They take on a challenge of collecting water from the Boiling Pot.’

‘Boiling Pot?’ said Sandy smiling. ‘Even I can get water from a boiling pot.’

Her guide shook her head, ‘Not a boiling pot but THE Boiling Pot. That is the foot of the Mosi-oa-Tunya, where all the waters pour into.’ She looked Sandy square in the eyes, ‘I hear you survived a leap into Batoka…you must be very brave.’

It was Sandy’s turn to shake her head. ‘It had nothing to do with bravery. It was simply a miracle. I can’t recall anything that happened there back then. I am just grateful I came out alive’.

‘Well your god must really like you,’ replied the guide. ‘Now these young men collect water from the Boiling Pot. They also have to collect clay from the river bed of the Boiling Pot. Ten they head for Chisamu Chilikumbede where they also have to draw water.’

Sandy asked, ‘What is Chisamu Chilikumbede?’

‘It is not a what, it is a where? Chisamu Chilikumbede is located at the lip above the falls.’

Sandy was impressed. ‘That is interesting’ she said.

‘No, that is not just interesting, that is daring,’ the guide corrected her. ‘The interesting part is that after all this the young men return to the village to be met by our girls who are of marriage-age. The girls take their pick of husbands from the group of young men.’

‘You have so many ceremonies here in Africa’.

‘Africa is a continent of ceremonies and rituals majority of them handed down by our forefathers. The Lwiindi ceremony has so many rituals surrounding it and is unique to us, the Toka-Leya people of Mukuni.’

‘Are there any other ceremonies you know of here in Zambia?’ asked Sandy.

‘There are countless other ceremonies. The Kuomboka is another one.’ She raised her palm to stop Sandy asking anymore questions. ‘You can witness that ceremony down at Lusaka, and ask your questions there. But now you must rest for the high point of Lwiindi would take place at dusk. And tomorrow you would have the honour of sailing on the African Queen as it takes you on a memorable tour of our great Zambezi.’


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